Emma Shtivelman, PhD Cancer Commons Chief Scientist

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    The Trouble With KRAS

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Mutations in the gene that encodes the KRAS protein are frequently encountered in various human cancers. They are found in about 30% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs), making KRAS the single most common gene mutated in this cancer. The rate of KRAS mutations in other cancers, such as pancreatic or colorectal, is even higher. A mutant KRAS protein that is always in the… Read more »

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    Metastatic Melanoma: Not Quite Curable…But Getting There

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    By 2050, the number of deaths due to malignant melanoma in the U.S. could be three times lower than peak levels reached before 1960. Researchers presented the data behind this prediction at the 2017 European Cancer Congress in January. It is unclear how much of this anticipated decline in deaths can be attributed to the availability of new, effective treatments. However, it is obvious… Read more »

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    Clinical Trials Test Treatments for High-Grade Brain Tumors

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    With a few exceptions, glioblastoma (GBM) remains largely incurable, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved few treatments for the disease. Surgery (when feasible), radiation, and temozolomide are used in most patients. But even if a newly diagnosed tumor can be surgically excised, recurrences are too common. In this blog post, I simply list some of the new treatments available in… Read more »

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    Testing for Tumor Mutations: Liquid Biopsy Versus Traditional Biopsy

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Update as of August 27, 2020: A lot has changed in the three-and-a-half years since this blog post was written. Liquid biopsies are by now widely recognized and used as a valuable diagnostic and monitoring tool. Many of the reservations and concerns described in the original post below have been addressed and largely resolved by refining the technology. The latest proof of this is… Read more »

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    In Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment, Not All CDK Inhibitors Are Equal

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Doctors prescribe drugs known as CDK inhibitors to treat some women with estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) metastatic breast cancer. Research into these drugs is ongoing, and new, promising CDK inhibitor options are on the horizon. Here, I address the current outlook for CDK inhibitors in ER+ breast cancer. First, some background: ER+ breast cancers comprise about 70% of all breast cancers. The name reflects the fact… Read more »

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    War of the Checkpoint Inhibitors: Anti-PD-1 Drugs Move into First-Line Treatment in NSCLC

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy, for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients whose cancer has progressed after first-line treatment with chemotherapy. Now, the manufacturers of both drugs, pembrolizumab (made by Merck) and nivolumab (made by Bristol-Myers Squibb; BMS) are intent on expanding the indications for use of their… Read more »

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    Melanoma: New Drugs and New Challenges (Part 2 of 2)

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    As always, the more new treatments become available in melanoma, the more new challenges arise. With eight new drugs approved for melanoma in the last five years, oncologists may sometimes face the difficult choice of what drugs to choose for a patient’s first-line treatment. Immune checkpoint drugs sometimes cause serious side effects, but progress is being made on how to treat these and also how to treat patients with pre-existing autoimmune conditions. New approaches are needed in efforts to prevent recurrence of melanomas diagnosed at earlier stages of disease progression.

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    Melanoma: New Drugs and New Challenges (Part 1 of 2)

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    New targeted and immunotherapy drugs have changed the diagnosis of metastatic melanoma from a death sentence into a disease that can potentially be managed and even cured. Nevertheless, these new drugs do not work in all patients, or they may stop working after a transient response. This post (part one of two) will describe ongoing efforts to find drug combinations with higher efficacy than single drugs and decipher the mechanisms underlying drug resistance.

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    New Research on Triple Negative Breast Cancer Emerges at ASCO 2016

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting of 2016 is behind us, but oncologists, patients, and journalists are still analyzing the most interesting presentations made there. Below, we describe some of the more prominent results in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), both promising and disappointing.

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    Lung Cancer Highlights from ASCO 2016

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    This year, the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) did not produce any truly groundbreaking revelations about new treatments for lung cancer. However, researchers did report quite a few positive findings, and some disappointing ones.